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Wausau Underwriters Insurance Co. v. Reliable Transportation Specialists, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 28, 2017

WAUSAU UNDERWRITERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
RELIABLE TRANSPORTATION SPECIALISTS, INC., AMARILD USHE and BURT HOLT, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF WAUSAU'S OBJECTIONS TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S ORDER COMPELLING DISCOVERY AND MODIFYING ORDER IN PART [DOC. 82]

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case stems from an underlying lawsuit (the “Holt Litigation”) filed by Burt Holt against Reliable Transportation, Amarild Ushe and a coco-defendant who is not a party to this action, related to injuries sustained by Holt when he was struck by a tractor trailer operated by Ushe. The present litigation arises out of plaintiff Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company's (“Wausau”) declaratory judgment complaint seeking a declaration from this court that it is responsible for no more than the policy limit under the commercial insurance policy issued to Reliable. Reliable Transportation and Ushe filed a counterclaim alleging that Wausau acted in bad faith against its insured by refusing to negotiate a settlement within the policy limits in the Holt Litigation.

         The matter is presently before the court on Wausau's objections to the Magistrate Judge's March 17, 2017 Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion to Compel Discovery Responses (“Order”). The only portion of the Order that Wausau objects to relates to the requirement that Wausau “must produce the docket information for cases from within the past 3 years in which bad faith failure to settle was alleged against Liberty Mutual and/or its subsidiaries.” Doc. 80, p. 2. For the reasons set forth below, Wausau's objection is granted and the Magistrate Judge's order is modified accordingly.

         A. Background

         In the motion to compel, Reliable and Ushe sought responses from Wausau for documents relating to other litigated cases:

15. Copies of all documents regarding other litigation regarding the same or similar issues as in the above styled case or in bad faith cases in same, or in other jurisdictions, both trial and appellate courts, from the last three (3) years.
16. Copies of all documents regarding any and all judgments awarded against Wausau in other litigation regarding the same or similar issues as in the above styled case or in bad faith cases in the same or in other jurisdictions, both trial and appellate courts, from the last three (3) years.
17. Copies of all documents regarding any awards of punitive damages against Wausau within the last seven (7) years, including the jurisdiction in which the punitive damages were awarded and the style of the case.

         Wausau filed a response in opposition to the motion to compel, arguing that the requests for information relating to other litigation are overly broad and seek irrelevant information.

         On March 1, 2017, the parties met to discuss the outstanding discovery issues as required by the Magistrate Judge. At this meeting, Reliable's counsel stated that Reliable was seeking information from any Liberty Mutual company, not just Wausau. On March 3, 2017, Reliable and Ushe filed a report with the Magistrate Judge stating that it would limit its requests to “bad faith failure to settle” cases, as opposed to any bad faith case. Reliable also offered to limit the request to certain jurisdictions, subject to further detail from Wausau. Reliable further stated it contemplated withdrawing Request 17 “[a]s punitive damages do not appear to be allowable . . . .” The report did not state that Reliable was expanding the request to include all Liberty Mutual companies.

         On March 8, 2017, Wausau filed its response to Reliable and Ushe's report. Wausau objected on the basis of relevance and explained the practical difficulties in complying with the requests. Wausau did not address its objections to including all Liberty Mutual companies because it was not discussed by Reliable.

         Magistrate Judge Stafford heard oral argument on the motion to compel on March 16, 2017. She granted the motion in part and denied it in part. With respect to the request for information pertaining to other litigation the order states:

Wausau must produce the docket information for cases from within the past 3 years in which bad faith failure to settle was alleged against Liberty Mutual and/or its subsidiaries. To the extent that defendants have requested documentation regarding any such litigation ...

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